Sunday, February 05, 2006

Is this what burnout feels like?

It's my second year of teaching, same school I started in. Right after finishing my credential, I bopped all over the Bay Area, interviewing everywhere.

From the start, I felt--I don't know--inadequate. As though I wouldn't be good enough and wouldn't get what I wanted. My credential program didn't really seem to have taught me what I needed to know--how to create a classroom system, how to enforce rules, how to manage paperwork. I loved my credential program, but it was very academic, and not real practical. Lots of political correctness. I'm good at that. Not so much 'what do you do when the kids won't ****ing sit down'?

Some of the people in my classes seemed really confident. They loved student teaching. They felt as though everything they were doing was right. They may have been delusional, but GOD I envied them. I related a lot more, though, to the redheaded guy from Boston who showed up to class drunk a lot, and was losing his marbles in student teaching because the high school kids couldn't understand mercantilism, no matter how loud he yelled. (We voted him 'most likely to become a college professor out of sheer frustration'.)

And I wanted to be like the woman who taught religion classes at a local Catholic high school, and was always correcting papers about symbolism in the Bible, and really seemed to love the girls she taught.

My lifetime goals are pretty simple. I want to raise a child, maybe two. I want to publish a novel, maybe several. And I'd like to buy a house (given the Bay Area, this may be the least realistic, but the fella and I have talked about it). But I'd also like a job that feels okay and pays the rent.

I don't have one. It pays the rent, it just doesn't feel remotely OK.

So, this is how I got here. I interviewed EVERYWHERE, and finally, just after Labor Day, got a half-time job teaching ELD at a middle school in an undisclosed community in the East Bay. I was told that I would have sixteen kids in my class, and that they were choosing me because I had a 'sweet manner' that they thought would be soothing to the poor, scared little immigrant kids.

Two weeks later, I had twenty-nine kids in my class, and they ranged from NO English to native speakers who'd been dumped on me because their grades were low. I struggled through the year, managed to wheedle myself a full-time job, and came back for more.

Big mistake.

I'm drowning.

Keeping order is pure hell. The administration sucks. The kids aren't afraid of getting in trouble. The kids are wild, many of them with undiagnosed LD and SPED problems. I'm the ELD coordinator this year and I'm drowning. The principal is hard to handle. The VP is affectless. The counselor quit at the beginning of December, so basically, all hell is breaking loose.

I assume I will not be hired back next year. Except for the cringing, horrible, ego blow, this is probably good, because otherwise some misplaced optimism might lure me back. I don't want to get up in the morning. I'm working constantly, and getting farther behind. I hate teaching.

I hate teaching.

I think I might like it if, say, I had just one or two behavior problems in a class, if I had more photocopies, if I had kids who didn't throw their silent reading books out the window. If I had a principal who just once said "What can we do to help?" rather than "You need to be able to control your class." If I spent an hour in transit every day instead of three. If I even had individual desks and chairs for the kids, instead of tables that make it impossible to group them or make sure everyone is facing forward.

I am tired of being the Wicked Witch of the West. I am tired of fighting with the kids every day. I am tired of everything.

I cry in the shower. I cry on BART coming home. If the fella weren't job hunting at the moment, I swear I would quit tomorrow. (Or would have quit last week.)

I think high school might work better for me. If I had the kids for fifty minutes, instead of two and a half hours. If I had students who understood my jokes, and parents who could talk to me.

I think this is burnout, and it makes me crazy. I went to so much trouble for this job, for teaching. I borrowed a lot of money to do this. I changed a lot of things. I can't stand the thought of losing it. I don't know what I'm going to do next. And I'm trying to stay calm, but I don't feel calm. I feel like hell.

Somewhere in my mind there's a picture of how this was supposed to be--me in a skirt and sweater set, teaching a bunch of kids who had mostly done the homework and could all read for a certain amount of comprehension. I drive a dinky little car, and help the kids try out for the drama club. I show the kids 'Throne of Blood' after we read "Macbeth".

I still want to be her.


Ezer K'negdo said...

Oy baby I feel for you. Left classroom teaching for those and so many other reasons. I really, really miss the kids, actually, but GD KNOWS not the teaching. I hope it gets better . . .Keep on truckin'...

Eliyahu said...

school is pretty amazing. sounds like both you and the kids feel you're in jail. while you're there could you elaborate a little on polygamy, or maybe even soup? (oh sure, it can wait. just was looking forward to it after your last post.)

my brother, the english teacher, sometimes shares his experiences with me. maybe not quite so dreadful, but he works very hard to do a good job & it's very difficult, and there's little appreciation from anyone. Oy!

may you be blessed to realize your dreams, and may it be soon! always remember what rebbe nachman said: never, never give up! a good week to you!

MUST Gum Addict said...

Don't give up!

When you first start, you always have these ideas of what you thought it was really going to be like. Someday, you'll look back at this year and realize how much you've learned from teh experience. Even if all you learned was restraint :)

A few years ago, I was asked to speak to a group of kids for the National Youth Leadership Foundation. I work in Hi-tech and this was a conference that was held in San Jose. Even though my company at the time was one of the largest employers in SJ, they chose me to speak at this conference. The point was for teens to sit through a few days of people talking about their jobs and industries, which was supposed to help them choose a career or area of interest in the "formative" years.

I prepared quite a speech. I mean, after all, I wanted to show these kids how wonderful a job like mine is and how great working in hi-tech is. About 4 minutes into the presentation, everything broke down. Somehow, I made it through the 60 minute presentation and then opened the floor for questions.


Then one boy in the back raised his hand and with a huge grin on his face asked "so tell me, how DO you keep that little hat on your head?"

Funny thing is, now I teach a lot (adults), but I'll tell that it's still frustrating. So here's my advice. For every class where there is fooling around and craziness, there is always at least someone who really does want to learn. Focus on that one person. Make believe that you are teaching just that person. Don't favor that person, but in your mind's eye, just see the kid who wants to learn (sometimes, that kid who wants to learn will join the bad ones, but you know you have what they want -- the knowledge -- and you'll always win in the end).

In this way, you'll spend less energy on the others and less time crying on the BART (which I'll be riding in a few weeks as I have business in SF and OAK), so you know I'll be looking out for a woman in a sweater suit crying... :)